Monday, 16 July 2012

A Nightmare on Elm Street, dir. Samuel Bayer, scr. Wesley Strick, Eric Heisserer, st. Jackie Earle Haley, Kyle Gallner, Rooney Mara, Katie Cassidy

Loosely true to its predecessor, a group of vigilante parents murder their children's molester (changed from a child killer in the 1984 original) Fred Krueger, and now he haunts the teens' dreams from beyond the grave, manifesting whenever they fall asleep. Wes Craven's stylish and bloody film has been laboriously and needlessly updated here with flashier visuals, deepened backstories, and spunkier heroines. There's interesting allegorical detailing in there somewhere about the sins of our forebears being healed by our young, but this is all but passed over in order to serve the next popcorn-raining jolt. Jackie Earle Haley, Rorschach in Zach Snyder's Watchmen, aims for greater solemnity than Robert Englund but still falls back into Gleeful Twisted Villain mode. Mara's Nancy Holbrook shows the kind of tiresome resolve we've come to expect from the last girl standing, but squint and you can just make out the faint traces of icy Lisbeth stoicism to come.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

The Amazing Spider-Man, dir. Marc Webb, wr. James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent, Steve Kloves, st. Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Campbell Scott, Irrfan Khan, Martin Sheen, Sally Field

"Why isn't it Spiderman?" asks Phoebe, pronouncing it "Spidermn". "You know, like Goldman, Silverman." "Because it... it's not his last name." replies Chandler. "It isn't?" "No. It's not like... like Phil Spiderman. He's a Spider-Man." This is ultimately the ace in the sleeve for Marc Webb's reboot of a franchise that began ten years ago with Sam Raimi's 2002 big-screen outing; there's a palpable sense of genuine fragile humanity running though the film. Frankly, it's what one would expect coming from screenwriter Vanderbilt, who wrote the intricate and weighty script for David Fincher's Zodiac, and actor Andrew Garfield who's gone from Film4 TV drama (Boy A) to arty independent (Never Let Me Go) to arty mainstream (The Social Network) to Summer blockbuster in four moves. The difference between his Peter Parker and Toby Maguire's rests squarely in Garfield's superior ability to sell a line, be it verbally, or wordlessly with furrowed brow or bite of lip. His take on the reluctant superhero has Parker as a mumbly, borderline Aspergered loner, far less eloquent than Maguire's nerdy-coolness. It's a perfect match for Stone's sparky charm (although I did wish her Gwen Stacey had a bit more to do) and we go a heck of a long time before any spandex is donned, the film taking its time to establish ties and build a rooted emotional foundation. So good is the build up, with rock-solid supporting performances by Martin Sheen and Sally Field as Uncle Ben and Aunt May, that it's almost a shame when the CGI kicks in, although this too is thrilling enough in it's own way. My one gripe would be how easily Spider-Man is flung around through walls and stonework whilst retaining the most minimal and sexy of battle-scarring; it does make you feel that our hero's never in any risk of sustain any real damage. A shame, as great pains are taken in the film's first act to paint Parker as at least emotionally brittle. Whilst not carrying the same heavy portentousness as Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight series, this version (and there will be others) does however imbue the Spider-Man story with just enough real-world cynicism as to slightly dull the comic book origins a shade, injecting a welcome dose of real drama into proceedings.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Sleeping Dogs Lie, dir/wr. Bobcat Goldthwait, st. Melinda Page Hamilton, Bryce Johnson, Geoff Pierson, Colby French

Goldthwait's film God Bless America, about a middle-aged man and teenage girl who mount a sort of Bonnie and Clyde-styled road trip in which they gleefully dispatch everyone that piss them off has just gone on general release in the UK, and if you enjoy it and fancy something darker but compelling nonetheless, you might want to check out his Sleeping Dogs Lie from 2006. It concerns Amy (Hamilton) whose one-time impulsive and experimental indiscretion with her dog during her time at college resurfaces years later to wreak havoc on her life. At its heart, despite the sensationalist premise, this is a film about honesty and its viability as foundation-laying currency in any relationship. The genius of the film lies in its capability to make us look beyond the act itself, as extreme as it is, and as events unfold and Amy mops up the fallout between her and her fiancĂ© and family, her momentary lapse of irrationality becomes substitute for any number of deeply personal confessions we might fear giving breath. It's nuanced and thoughtful with a delightfully subversive resolving message that actually, ignorance may be bliss after all. 

Monday, 2 July 2012

Your Sister's Sister, dir/wr. Lynn Shelton, st. Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mark Duplass

Your Sister's Sister is a neat little one-acter whose improvisational dialogue is more likely to elicit wry chortles at the realism of sibling dynamics rather than the raucous guffaws that accompany rapier wordsmithery. Blunt plays Iris, girlfriend of the recently passed Tom and best friend to his brother Jack (Duplass), who offers him a secluded spot of head-clearing at her father's remote cabin in the woods. There he meets Hannah (DeWitt), Iris' gay and newly ex-long-term-relationshed sister. A bottle of tequila does the rest. Such an unfussy storyline turns what might have been a muddle of half-baked unscripted awfulness into a sharply observed piece of naturalism, even if at times you're aware of the one-note tune. In fact, most of the joy is derived from watching the three leads career into and dodge each other's fears and neuroses like pinball ball-bearings, so much so, that one feels the palpable weight of clunky narrative resolution as the story attempts to resolve. On stage, with the immediacy of its live surroundings, this would have made for a spellbinding hour or so, up on the screen, it feels ever so slight.